Monday, November 9, 2009

recap of the trip

I was able to write about my trip to Germany in one of my college papers!

I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in a mission trip to a Christian camp in Germany this summer. I have always had an interest in missions. So, when I found one that involved art, one of my other interests, I knew it was the trip for me. The camp was huge with 3,000 teenagers in attendance. The campers came from various countries around the world. Germany, Austria, Sweden, Finland, Holland, Italy, the UK, the US, and even Egypt were represented. It was a new experience to be among so many languages, lifestyles, and nationalities at one time. In Germany, I was able to help others through art, form lasting friendships, and learn hands on about other countries and cultures.

My sister, Melissa, also came on the trip. Before we could go, we had to get passports and shots, because this trip was the first time we had been out of the United States. After much planning and fundraising, we had the costs covered. We applied and submitted an art portfolio to the mission organization that was running the camp. We were so happy when we were notified that it was approved.

The art area, my team members and I worked at, was called the “Art Zone”. It was one of the many of activities at the camp, which ranged from human foosball to games of chess with huge chess pieces. It was open at different times for art workshops, or just as a place for teens to come in and work on whatever they felt like. All the work was hung up on the walls for everyone to see. An Art Zone area was also set up during the times of worship for the teens to express themselves artistically. At the end of the week, the artwork was auctioned off to raise money for people living in a poor European country called Moldova.

The Art Zone, in the worship area, didn’t have tables or chairs. Instead, teens painted on the temporary walls and on paper set up on the floor. One boy, who was ten or eleven, stepped in green paint while wearing white shoes! Now from having a 12-year-old brother at home, I know that boys that age are not the best at cleaning up. I got paper towels and began cleaning off the paint. Inside my head I was thinking, “Why did I come all the way to Germany to clean some paint off a kid’s shoe?” I wanted to do something great, important, and amazing while I was over there.

I learned that on mission trips things aren't always as glamorous as they are made out to be. They aren’t one bit simple. Some days I started my prayers with "God why?" I became frustrated when some of the other members got credit for their great creative ideas and some how got out of the jobs I always got stuck doing. I felt like all I did was get assigned little things that nobody cared about, like sweeping the floor and wiping the tables. While I was cleaning the little boy’s shoe, an interesting parallel crossed my mind; Jesus cleaned His disciple’s feet at the last supper. That act showed humility and I was acting the total opposite. He didn’t have to clean their feet, but it was something He wanted to do. It was very symbolic of His character. From then on, my perspective changed. I realized what it meant to serve others. It didn’t matter that I didn’t get a thank you from the kid who stepped in paint, what mattered is that I learned a lesson in humility.

I often helped the teens pin up their work if they were having trouble. One time, two young French boys asked me in French if I could hang their work. My two years of high school French didn’t help me understand a word, so I had to play a guessing game to find out what they said. “A pen?” I asked and moved my hand in the air like I was writing. They shook their heads and repeated themselves while trying to point at objects to help me understand. I finally figured out what they wanted. When they realized I understood them, they were so happy that someone took the time to understand and help them. It made me feel like I was making a difference even in the smallest ways.

I think that both having an interest in art and sharing the same faith were two reasons the Art Zone team became so close. We all learned so much from each other. Peter, the German in our group, was very opinionated and blunt. He told one of the other American girls that she needed to stop talking with her mouth open. He asked me what Americans thought about recycling, global warming, and energy. He bragged about how Germany was focused on those things. Peter was surprised that none of the Americans at the camp had ever seen the movie Al Gore made. He thought that was the most important movie to see!

Gerhard and Kathi were also a part of the Art Zone team. They were from Austria. Kathi had dreadlocks and Gerhard told us that he used to have dreadlocks until he cut his hair a few months before. They said the area they live in is a huge tourist attraction for skiing. That is what they like to do for fun.

By talking to Kathi, I learned that Austrian teenagers have an immense amount of pressure at a young age. Most Austrians start living on their own when they are 16. At 16, they are considered an adult and have to make choices early on about what career they want to have. As a result of the stress, caused by the pressure, Austria has one of the highest suicide rates for young people. She said if she wasn’t a Christian she probably would already taken her life.

Akeelah and Josh were from England and came to serve in the Art Zone. They ate so proper. My American friend, Jessa, asked them if there really is teatime. “When you’re happy you have a cup of tea. When you’re sad you have a cup of tea. When you’re mad you have a cup of tea. Whenever is when you have a cup of tea,” Josh told us. We all thought that was funny!

All the countries had different ways the school systems were set up. In Europe, college is what they call high school and university is what they call college. Peter was 19, but still had one more year of school because in Germany they have one more year of school than in the US. In the UK, they complete school when they are 16 and if they want to go on to the university then they must take additional courses for two years. It only takes three years to get a degree at a university over there. If they don’t want to attend a university then they can get an apprenticeship, to train for a career.

Everyone in the Art Zone team had a lot of fun together. During our free time, we went shopping and explored Offenburg, the town we stayed in. We ate ice cream at this quaint place and it was by far the best thing I tasted. We played card games and took lots of silly pictures. Our team all thought imitating each other’s accents was amusing. It was hilarious! We even got some video clips of it.

I am so glad I was able to go and become a well-rounded person. If I would have let the thoughts at the beginning of the trip take control, I would have missed out on the great lessons that I learned and the friendships I made. Humility teaches you to put others before yourself. I had much more of a willingness to help those who needed it. By seeing and experiencing how people live differently, I became more aware of the world around me and what difference I can make.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The weekend

the first throne room- worship time

Saturday the whole team arrived. The art zone consisted of 16 members. Since there was a good amount of helpers we were assigned times and sub groups when we had to be in the art zone, when we weren't assigned we could still be in the art zone or have some free time to rest or work on our own artwork or do other work. That way at least a small group would always be in the art zone. We had a meeting to clue in the rest of the team of what was going on. That night the teens arrived and the first throne room (worship time) took place. For this throne room the art part wasn't set up yet so we all just got to go as a group and worship together. It was so awesome to be a part of it. The teens that didn't understand English or German had headsets so they could listen to a translator speaking their native tongue. So cool! That night my sub group, group 1 had the late shift in the art zone, 9 to 11:30 pm.

Sunday when I had some free time I went to visit the OM AIDs link (If you haven't read the post below it makes more sense to read it before this post). Melissa and the other American girl Rebekka came with me. We were given ipods to listen to the story. We walked into the first scene a boys room. The ipod played, a voice told the story without any actors, each scene was furnished with props and made to be believable. It told the story of a boy with good grades, loved sports, and had now started living on his own. The next scene/room we entered was a dark bar. The boy now had made friends that liked going to bars and picking up girls and taking them home. He wasn't sure if it was the right thing to do but he caved into peer pressure and started drinking. He found himself taking girls home. The next scene is a park, the one I helped paint. He meets a girl and believes she is the one. She isn't like any of the other girls that he has met. She is smart, funny, and pretty. She tells him she has been with other guys but they weren't like him. The last scene, a girl's bedroom. One day the girl tells him she has some news. She is pregnant and HIV positive. He doesn't know what to think. Was it his fault and his past or hers? What about his future? Will he have to do drop out of college and raise the child? What if he is HIV positive? and if he isn't? The story ends. Anne from the AIDs link has us sit down to talk to us about the story. We pull out a slip of paper to tell us what the boy's result is. Mine and Rebekka's slips said he was HIV positive and Melissa's said he wasn't. We were asked what we thought his reaction would be the the results. Anne said three years ago at teenstreet they did a study and 17% of the teens that attended teenstreet admitted they were or had been sexually active. 17% of CHRISTIAN teenagers and sadly this number she said was off because those were only who admitted it! She told us the purpose of the AIDs link is to bring AIDs awareness, to inform and prevent it, to help those who have it, and to show love to those who have it. I thought it was a very powerful presentation that made you think.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I learned that on mission trips things aren't always as glamorous as they are made out to be. Some days I started my prayers with "God why?" I became frustrated when I would give an idea that I thought was the best I could think of and it would just get blown over and over shined by other team member's ideas. I felt like all I did was get assigned little jobs. I wanted to blame it on jet lag or being a little homesick but I knew I just needed to give up and give my work over to God. I left the art zone and found a place where I could just be alone. I just felt His peace within me after I prayed. I had to refocus on what I was blessed with. I felt that God was telling me bigger and better things await you.

When I returned to the art zone I was told the OM AIDS link want my help to paint something. I and two other members of the art zone helped the AIDs link at the beginning of the week. They were putting on a story with different scenes. We helped them paint a park scene for the story. When we were painting we got to meet two of the members. Anne had lived in both France and the US. One of her parents was French and the other American. She spoke both languages very well. The other other member Jake was from Texas. He had just graduated from college there and had a two year commitment with OM. The second time I painted for the AIDS link Anne wanted me to paint a heart beat on the outside of the station. The station they had the story that had four rooms with the different scenes inside each room. It was very relaxing to just paint by myself and hear the devotion band play in the background.

The last night of set up week the day before we had communion with all of the service team. It was a really great devotions that night, those of you who saw the video clip of devotions on our movie it was from that night. We broke off into prayer groups, five us art zone members prayed together for the upcoming days when the teens would arrive.

To answer Mrs. Haynes' question which was 'What would each of you say was the most encouraging to you about meeting Christian teens from other countries?'

That cultures and languages didn't hinder us from coming together to worship the same God. I was so great to meet other people that are on fire for God and want to live a life that is pleasing to Him. -Lauren

To meet people from other countries who were surrounded with a lot more challenges than I am on a day to day basis, and still prove strong in their faith is extraordinary. Some of the girls I met were the only christians in their communities and had to go to a catholic school everyday. The passion and longing in each of their hearts truly was inspiring and it rubbed off! As believers, we do have the same purpose and the same hope and going on this trip and interacting with everyone showed that truth. -Melissa

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Trains and Testimonies

My tiny piece of art that I worked on
The train!!!

The night before, we set up the art zone. I covered the tables with plastic and the new addition to the art zone Peter from Germany helped. The other members set out art supplies. We all were craving fruit, we weren't getting served any for some reason. Jessa, Melissa, and I were a real shock to the Europeans, they thought all Americans drank pop and ate junk food. When really we wanted fruits, veggies, and water! We went to Norma which looks just like Aldi to buy fruit. I posted a picture of it in the last post.

On this day Andrew and a few others went shopping for supplies. The rest of us worked on our own art work. Andrew, the art zone leader, wanted us to put up some of our work to inspire the teens who would be coming in a few days. Melissa was really over tired and we said it would be ok if she went to lay down after spending all morning working on stuff for her workshop. We had been moved from the one building we were sleeping to tents outside next to the railroad tracks. We timed the trains and they went by every 3 to 8 minutes, all night long! Talk about no sleep.

Rachelle came to join the art zone today. She was from Holland, but didn't like it there very much. She, Jessa, Josh, Peter, and I all sat around the table working on artwork. Jessa asked what each person's testimony was. It was so good to hear how they came to Christ and what God had done and was doing in their lives. We all had different ways were came to know the Lord. Some were younger Christians and others of us had been Christians from little on. Jessa asked Rachelle, we were told that her father had passed away and she knew her faith wasn't like it used to be. She knew God existed but wasn't sure of her faith anymore. Jessa replied in a very kind way that made the situation in no way uncomfortable. My heart went out to Rachelle. I've had a few friends that have lost their parents and I can't imagine what kind of hardship that must be. I kept her in my prayers for the entire week. I felt like I was able to connect to my new friends even more now.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

prayers answered

I woke up very tired and had a pounding headache in the middle of the night. I took some pain killer and prayed for a long time before finally falling asleep. Jet lag and a headache together is a horrible feeling.

Since there were four of us Americans on the art zone the head of teenstreet Germany wanted to meet us all personally and have some tea and desserts with us. He was actually from the UK. He was explaining to us that there was a few issues that needed some prayer. One being that something was wrong with this curtain on one of the stages. The fire department wasn't going to let them use the stage unless they fixed the curtain. I guess it had something to do with safety. They needed this permit and the permit was due last week and they didn't know that. Its a bit confusing, we prayed it would all work out. A few days later they were able to fix it and use the stage.

A couple from Holland also joined tea with us. They had been married for a year and had a very interesting ministry. They explained to us:
Holland still has some colonies in the Caribbean. The people that live on those islands are considered Dutch citizens yet they live very differently. There is no such thing as marriage. The men and women don't even live together. The only come together to have children, which are only raised by the clan of women. The boys are surprisingly macho considered they are raised by a bunch of women and no males around. There is no trust among these people. They steal from each other.
So the ministry this couple has is to help the people who come from these islands to Holland. The people are very musical and they helped the men form a band. They made it possible for them to enter contests and preform. The guy from Holland said they stole his wallet the last performance. Its sad after all that they do for those people and they take advantage of it. Yet the couple still has a heart to love and support them.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The first full day in Germany

In the city there was these unique sculptures of birds and a snake!
The buildings in the city were colorful and had amazing architecture.
This is the dinning hall before most of the tables and chair were set up.

The first breakfast was cornflakes and hard German bread. The milk was the warmest milk I've ever had. It was a little hard to finish. (:P) In the middle of our meal and rather short man came over to us. He introduced himself and he turned out to be Andrew the art zone leader. We had seen his picture on facebook, but profile pictures aren't the same as someone being there in real life. He had flown in late the night before and since we went to bed so early we missed his arrival. He brought us over to another table where the other art zone members were sitting. One of the girls, Rebekka was from LA, so it was nice to have another person from the US. It turned out that she arrived late last night also and in the rain!

After breakfast we had a meeting about what kind of things we were going to do and brainstorm about other ideas. We only had six art zone members at the time with others arriving at all different times in the week so we started with simple introductions and basic ideas. Mirijam from Germany had been to teenstreet in previous years and was Andrew's assistant. She was in school and wanted to be an art teacher. Kathi from Austria had been to teenstreet to as a teen but it was her first year helping out in the art zone. She knew she wanted to help at teenstreet in some way and felt God was calling her to help in the art zone. We had to wait for them to put up temporary walls before we could start working to set up the art zone so we went into town. It was a good fifteen minute walk from the center to the main part of the town. Another member joined us, Josh from England. We stopped to have ice cream. I miss the ice cream it was out of this world. Melissa and I tried the watermelon flavor. :) We also looked around one of the art supply stores but everything was too expensive.

The theme of teenstreet was impossible based on Hebrew 11:6 so they discussed it in depth during devotions. The couple that was speaking to the teens at teenstreet spoke at devotions and shared what they were going to speak with the teens to us, service team members.

Note: We plan to share more the Sunday we have pictures! I might write stuff down before I speak to the youth group so I cover everything I want to say. I felt like everything I wanted to say I didn't even come close to talking about at church today.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

of travels: Melissa style

day one. the perspective.
Hebrews 11:6
I have learned to expect the impossible, and of all places: Offenburg, Germany. I never knew nor thought the intensity of jet lag. One hour of sleep certainly became a miracle! but, everything was beyond spectacular. The language barrier was somewhat frustrating, but extremely intriguing at the same time. To think that all over the world people belie what I believe is so mind-boggling and on the verge of unfathomable, but there we stood.
Paris was Paris. (A correction to what Lauren said: The bathrooms on the lower level were CLOSED. Thus, we had to go through security and to the top floor just to get to them.) We didn't get to venture out of the confines of the airport, but we managed to catch the flight, made it through customs in Strasbourg, and experienced crossing the border of France to Germany by car. After this I don't know that a picture can capture 1,000 words.
On the arrival to the correct location---Jessa, Lauren, and I managed to find people to help us. One guy on a tow-motor of sorts began speaking in German asking us if we spoke his language. Blank stares were given by my fellow travels. I gave him a definite 'Ich spreche nicht deutsch.' However, my bilingual abilities were proven scarce. On many occasions a flight attendant or airport worker would ask me for my passport of any such question and I confused it by over analyzing English for French. (This is caused by over preparation.)
We had a 'Bible study' which was excellent. This consisted of worship, a brief message, and prayer. Everyone was so devoted to God which really makes me look at myself and think of how much more I can be doing for God. I saw traits that I want more of. I know that me going there wasn't just for me-God has so many plans for me to touch others.

-God bless, Mel.